Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…

“We’re not too keen on the artwork provided by the distributors” say Jack in the Box Films on their Facebook page about OFF PISTE, a movie they produced. Gilt Edge Media’s sleeve design is certainly eye-catching, but it’s not particularly representative of the content, though then again neither is the synopsis on IMDb which was used for the DVD.

So let’s ignore that slight curveball, and correct it by saying that Stanley Winters (Henry Douthwaite) is a former member of the SAS, who following a horrific accident retires to the French Alps to care for his blind mother. Twelve years later, Niamh O’Brian (Lara Lemon) is desperate to get revenge for the tragedy that decimated her family, and begins the search for the man responsible. However, with Niamh’s sudden disappearance leaving a host of unanswered questions back in her Belfast home, her boyfriend begins the chase to find out just where Niamh has gone, and who the person is that she’s travelled hundreds of miles to track down.

In the wake of Gilt Edge Media unleashing a swathe of bottom shelf material in recent weeks like Road Wars, Joker’s Poltergeist and The Purging Hour, the arrival of Off Piste is an unexpected delight. The mountainous setting is perfect for this tale of retribution and redemption, and DP Antony Meadley captures the wintry solitude well. The real surprise is the ambition shown by director Glen Kirby and his crew, as for a film with an alleged budget of £25,000, it carries all the hallmarks of a movie that cost ten times that.

Fleshed out characters, intelligently written dialogue and deftly constructed exposition – not the usual qualities of a DTV’er making its debut onto the shelves of your local supermarket. Admittedly those picking up Kirby’s film with the expectation of a gun-toting orgy of violence will be left sorely disappointed, as this feature lies firmly in the drama department of the genre spectrum with its steady pacing and unhurried exposition. If though, you like the occasional gamble on a tightly wound slice of British independent filmmaking, then this will make for a satisfying nights entertainment.

Off Piste is currently a retail exclusive with the UK supermarket chain ASDA, and will go on general release from the 17th October.

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Some films just leave you with a post-coital, eyelid-sagging, cigarette smoking sense of smug satisfaction; GRIDLOCKED is such a film. Critically speaking, I could arm my verbal cynicism and fire several rounds of potshots in its direction, but then I don’t really class myself as a pompous critic who wails on the basic principle of an action movie existing which is unrestrained, hedonistic, bullet-spraying enjoyment.

Gridlocked sees David Hendrix (Dominic Purcell), demoted to the NYPD after failing his routine medical exam. As part of his chief’s plans for David to prove he’s a capable leader, he’s paired with Brody Walker (Cody Hackman), a former child movie star turned train wreck, researching a last-chance role that could save his career. Coming to the end of their time together, a routine patrol to a covert training facility quickly turns into a crisis of national security, as armed mercenaries stage an attack to retrieve secret military data. With the building now on lock down, the mismatched twosome must band together with the few remaining survivors to keep the enemy from overtaking the compound.

Coming across as the bastard love child of Assault on Precinct 13 and John Badham’s The Hard Way, Gridlocked’s obvious adoration of action movies is so apparent that it would take a stony-hearted misanthropist to not feel a flutter of love for Allan Ungar’s film. With onscreen weaponry aplenty, the ejection of the DVD brought a tinnitus-like whistle in my ear from the fact that such prolonged gunfire had almost melted my soundbar, as Purcell thankfully gets a role that proves that the Wirral-born actor is capable of more than just Lincoln Burrows in a variety of thinly-veiled guises. Credit to Hackman though, who’s an excellent foil to Purcell’s gruff ex-SWAT guy persona, and with a mean-ass Steven Lang chewing scenery with relish, not to mention Vinnie Jones, Danny Glover and Trish Stratus, it’s a must have for any self-respecting action aficionado.

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I have to admit the plethora of laudatory quotes adorning the sleeve of THE DEVIL’S WOODS made me purse my lips with an anticipatory ooh of expectation, not least because they were from reasonably well-respected outlets. Having seen the film though, “An expertly crafted movie” it certainly isn’t, and I can only pontificate on just what kind of hallucinogens my peers were taking when they sat down to watch this.

With a narrative that revolves around camping, a small backwoods village, and the setting of rural Ireland – stop me if you’ve heard this one before, we begin with a bit of bad ADR and coke snorting, as our merry band of festival-goers engage in a prolonged apartment-based preamble amid some clunky positioned film references. When they do finally head out into the country, a cliché-ridden village provides some cookie cutter predictability, and the one good line of the picture; “Any of these girls give me a BJ?” sneers a local, “I don’t think they’d like the taste of your sister” one of the group snaps back.

By the time we reach forty minutes into this seventy minute feature, there’s finally a hint at the horror that’s to come, but the laborious crawl to get here among characters I cared little for was a bit of a slog. There’s just no real momentum in the first few reels, and when it does gather a degree of pace and atmosphere it feels very belated, much in the same way of the conflict that arises between the four leads very late on; it’s just too late to be of any use or importance to the film. With an ending that we’ve seen far better interpretations of elsewhere, not to mention the jarring way in which it blends with the rest of the feature, The Devil’s Woods is a film that sadly failed to make my eyes light up with any degree of wonderment, but hey, someone obviously liked it.

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All of this week’s discs were released in the UK on the 12th September 2016


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